Founded in 2006 by Josh and Lisa Lawrence, Gård Vintners prides itself on being one of the few 100% estate wineries in Washington, with 14 vineyards in four AVAs: Royal Slope, Columbia Valley, Wahluke Slope and The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. Certified sustainable, Lawrence Vineyards focuses on careful clonal selection and astute farming practices that result in a line-up of more than 20 different wines under the Gård label with the vast majority scoring over 90 points year after year.
Origin and a sense of place are of utmost importance in Gård’s winemaking philosophy, honoring our family’s farming heritage, each distinct vineyard site, and each individual harvest season to understand and appreciate the uniqueness that these aspects bring to our wines.
Matías Kúsulas, Head Winemaker and Viticulturist for Gård Vintners and Lawrence Vineyards, believes each wine has its own personality that is formed in the vineyard – from pruning to harvest time. Gård is a 100% estate winery, meaning we farm all the grapes that go into making our wines, which allows us to have full control over the totality of the growing season and ensuring the highest level of consistency and attention to detail from vintage to vintage to get the most of what each vintage offers.
Gård Vintners produces 10,000 cases a year for our wine club and three tasting rooms in Ellensburg, Walla Walla and Woodinville, plus our farm-to-table restaurant Gård Public House in Royal City, as well as limited distribution across the country.
Our mission at Gård Vintners is to capture and bottle the unique characteristics of the land we farm. The Lawrence family is dedicated to crafting world-class wines from our sustainably farmed estate vineyards located in the heart of eastern Washington wine country.
OUR FAMILY FARM
It took a big decision in 1964 that went against conventional wisdom for my uncle, Sandy Lawrence, to choose the Royal Slope to lay down his roots as a farmer. The magnitude of this decision has been discussed many times and appreciated many more. With as much as Sandy and his brother (my dad) John accomplished as farmers, none of these successes outweighs the initial decision.
As Sandy and his father Hervey traveled through the Columbia Basin looking at different areas, the final focus came down to the Royal Slope or Ephrata. The ground in Ephrata was ready-made for a successful start in farming, while the Royal Slope had broke farmers prior and was far from established. The rolling slope provided struggles when the only irrigation methods were flood, hand lines or wheel lines, whereas Ephrata was relatively flat. What Sandy looked at more than the ground was the opportunity and the comradery he could share with many other young farmers just trying to make a name for themselves. At the time either decision would have sufficed, as the major crops were wheat, beans and forages in either location. There wasn’t even a distant thought about permanent crops such as apples and cherries, let alone vineyard.
As the 1960s progressed Sandy went from a sole proprietor with summer help from his brother John to a partner when John graduated from Washington State University (Go Cougs!) in 1968. The days were filled with hard work and adverse conditions. Those who are familiar with Royal City know the summers are hot and springs are windy, which can be expected when farming in the desert.
The 1960s were tough but created a solid base, and the 1970s were dynamic. Farmers in the middle of the 1970s saw wheat prices reach levels that weren’t surpassed again until 2008. The money was flowing and the easiest thing was to continue the status quo. This is where the second most important decision was made: Why not try planting an apple orchard? There were a couple in the area already, but orchards in the area were scarce and they were told many times that they can’t grow good fruit in the Basin. Being stubborn Norwegians, that was all the motivation needed, so in 1980 a decision was made to alter the future of the Lawrence farming operation. At the time there were signs that the farming economy was beginning to slip and interest rates were climbing rapidly, but that was just one more reason to put your ground to the highest returning commodity, which at the time looked to be apples.
A crazy occurrence happened that spring that changed everything: May 18, 1980. John’s young family was sitting in church when they started hearing what sounded like thunder. As church ended and they walked outside to the car I remember the sky looking ominous and recollect seeing something akin to red lightening. As we got in the car and turned on the radio we heard that Mt. St. Helens had erupted. Day turned into night within the drive home and as we pulled into Sandy’s house his kids were eating lunch outside in the pitch dark. That was an incredibly long afternoon waiting to watch the Disney program, as we always did on Sunday night.
Unfortunately, with the darkness came ash -- an ash that destroyed cars, pickups, tractors and anything with an engine that wasn’t properly filtered to handle it. It also destroyed first cutting alfalfa, which farmers ended up burning in some cases, and stunted many other crops. The Lawrences had planted their first acre of orchard less than a month prior, the farming economy was hitting the skids, interest levels were reaching record highs, and now the Lawrences and every other famer in the Columbia Basin and Yakima Valley needed disaster relief by way of low interest SBA loans. Not exactly a great start to the 1980s for the Lawrence farm, to say the least.
There were many routes they could have taken, and planting more apples in 1984 may not have seemed to be the best decision at the time, but those apples, Red and Golden Delicious planted in 1980 and 1984, may have actually saved the farm. When so many others were struggling to make payments on ground and cover operating costs, those apples began to pay the Lawrences back and return revenue that kept the farm afloat. It was at that point that they were hooked.